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Studying abroad: Is it worth the investment?

By Anjuli Bhargava
May 17, 2016 17:00 IST
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If you're looking for immediate returns on your investment, it is unlikely to happen in today's environment says Anjuli Bhargava.

Studying abroad: Is it worth the investment?

Your daughter is in grade 12 in a well-known and respected school in Delhi.

She's smart, bright and gets high grades.

She may not be top of the class but she's well above average.

After grade 12, most of her classmates are planning to leave the country for further studies. They are headed to the United States, the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, Scotland, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and even Ireland.

She, too, wants to go out of the country. She feels it is the way to go.

You are in a good job. You earn a decent sum every year, let's say enough to put you in the high net worth bracket. You have three cars. You live in a house you own and possess an apartment that is like an investment. You travel two or three times a year -- once maybe overseas.

You invest through SIPs in mutual funds. Everyone in your house has a MacBook, an iPad, a nice phone. There's a widescreen television in almost every room.

You are comfortably off -- you don't really need to think before you spend but you don't have cash to throw around either. You are a member of a couple of clubs in your city. Your wife doesn't work.

Your daughter's overseas education would set you back by around Rs 1.2 to 2 crore depending on the value of the rupee. You know her heart is set on it but you know it will be a bit of a stretch for you. What in this situation should you do?

For the last year or so that I have been writing on this subject, more and more people I come across seem to be facing this dilemma.

Earlier, these conversations were restricted to drawing rooms of the more privileged schools in the capital. But now it has spread to the others, including a host of international schools that have sprung up around the country, reflecting the rising incomes and aspirations of the parents' communities.

An IIT professor, who I met recently and who had gone to speak at a function at one of the larger Delhi Public School institutions, said the principal mentioned that almost 800 in a recent batch of 1,200 were looking at studying overseas.

So I spoke to five education consultants on whether it did or didn't make sense in today's environment to shell out the big amount needed to fund a foreign education.

While they had a number of points to make, there was one thing all five of them agreed upon. If your child is not making it into one of the top 30 to 40 colleges in the US -- or a high-ranking institution in the UK or Europe -- better look at whether the money you are shelling out is being well spent.

If it is stretching you financially, think many times over. There's very little to choose between a B-grade college here in India and a B-grade college in the States.

If she is not making it into one of the more reputable places, she might as well graduate from one of the less reputable places here at a fraction of the cost.

Second, in general a good education is an investment, not an expense. You give your child a good education and leave her capable of earning the amount invested many times over so one can't view something like this from a narrow lens.

But if you are looking for immediate returns on your investment, it is unlikely to happen in today's environment where there are visa troubles and a squeeze on jobs.

In America and other Western economies, the economic downturn since 2008 has dried up the jobs that might have previously been available for Indians and other Asians directly on campus.

Almost every student they could think of is back after studies, and while few admit it the primary reason is because they can't find the kind of work they were hoping to secure post-degree.

If you can afford to send your child just for the exposure, then by all means go right ahead. Almost everyone agrees the experience is invaluable.

And finally, remember that some children come with an inherent drive and they will do well regardless of what they do and where they find themselves.

Hunger, drive and ambition are usually inborn and while you can kill hunger by over-indulgent parenting and excess, ambition, if it is inborn, usually raises its head at some stage.

Examples of children who have done well despite the system -- not thanks to it -- abound.

All your steering may amount to naught or your laid-back approach can yield wonderful results. Not everything is in our control.

Lead image used for representational purposes only. Image: Larry Downing/Reuters

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Anjuli Bhargava
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